Apple iPhone and iPad Update Screen

It’s a good idea to keep your iPad’s operating system and firmware (iPadOS) up to date. iPadOS updates are available for free from Apple, and they give your iPad the latest security and bug fixes, and features. Here’s how to update your iPad to the latest version of iPadOS.

Back Up Before You Update

While problems during the install process are rare, it’s possible for something to go wrong and cause your iPad to lose your data. So, before you install an iPadOS update on a mission-critical iPad (or one with irreplaceable data), make it a habit to back it up first.

Update iPadOS via the Settings App

These days, most people update their iPad directly through the Settings app without connecting their iPad to a computer. This is called a wireless installation.

To do this, open the “Settings” app from the Home screen.

Tap “General” in the left column.

Tap "General."

Select “Software Update” on the right side.

Tap "Software Update."

The Settings menu displays information about the latest iPadOS update, including the version number and some details about the changes it will make.

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If your iPad has not yet downloaded the update, you see a button that says “Download and Install.” Tap it to download the update. Your iPad will install the update automatically after the download is complete.

If your iPad has already downloaded the update, you see the “Install Now” button; tap it to begin the update process.

Tap "Install Now."

After the installation process begins, a pop-up will alert you that it’s verifying the update; wait for this to finish.

The iPadOS "Verifying Update" message.

After verification is complete, the iPad screen will go black and the tablet will restart. The Apple logo and a small progress bar appear in the center of the screen.

The Apple logo and installation progress bar in iPadOS.

When the installation is complete, you can use your iPad again, as usual.

Update iPadOS via USB with Finder or iTunes

You can also update your iPad via a wired connection with your Mac or Windows PC. If your Mac runs macOS 10.15 or later, open Finder. If your Mac runs macOS 10.14 or earlier, or you’re using a Windows PC, open iTunes.

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Connect your iPad to your computer with a Lightning-to-USB cable. If it’s the first time you’re connecting it to the computer, your iPad will ask if you want to trust the computer; tap “Trust.”

Locate your iPad on the computer and click it. On macOS 10.15 or later, you’ll see it on the left side of the Finder window under “Locations.”

Click your iPad in Finder.

If you’re using iTunes, click the iPad icon in the toolbar near the top of the screen.

In the window with information on your iPad, navigate to the “General” tab (in Finder) or Settings > Summary (in iTunes). Click “Check for Update.”

Click "Check For Update."

If an update is available, click “Download.” When the download is complete, click “Update.” Type your passcode if necessary and the update will install.

Make Sure You’re iPad Is Up to Date

After you update your iPad, you can double-check to make sure everything was installed.

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On your iPad, navigate to Settings > General > Software Update. If your device is fully updated, you see a screen similar to the one below that confirms this.

The software up to date message in iPadOS.

Congratulations! Your iPad is all updated and ready to use.

Is your iPad no longer receiving updates? It’s time to grab a new one.

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Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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